Art Canberra
National Museum of Australia in Canberra The multi-award winning National Museum of Australia in Canberra is devoted to telling great stories about Australia and Australians, celebrating the diverse themes of land, nation and people.
Oscar's sketchbook
In the early 1980s a small book was discovered in a box within a collection from the Australian Institute of Anatomy, the contents were being accessioned into the National Museum of Australia. On the front cover of the book were the words Drawn by Oscar, Cooktown boy, aged 18 years. The book, now known as Oscars Sketchbook, had remained largely unseen for over 100 years.
Oscars Sketchbook contains 40 historically informative, sometimes humorous and often powerfully disturbing images of life on the Australian frontier in the late 19th century. What is even more remarkable is that all the drawings are by a young Aboriginal artist, making it a very rare historical document.
art holidays

NED at the NGA
A specially designed oval space on the entry level N.G.A. houses Sidney Nolan's iconic works. More >
245 Lady Denman Drive Yarramundi Reach, Canberra.
More >
DRAWN BY OSCAR, a Cooktown boy, aged 18 years, now known as Oscars Sketchbook, it had remained largely unseen for over 100 years. More >
Great Australians
important paintings at the National Portrait Gallery Canberra.
More >
32 Lonsdale Street,
ACT 2612
More >


Who was Oscar ?
Almost nothing is known about Oscar apart from what is contained in a letter written by his overseer Augustus Glissan when he sent the notebook to Dr Charles Bage in 1899. Oscar was only a boy when he was given into Glissan's care: 'This boy I got at Cooktown in 1887 ... the police got him for me and brought him on board the steamer'.

According to Glissan, Oscar was born in around 1877 in the Palmer River region of far north Queensland. It appears that Oscar was badly burnt at a young age and consequently had trouble riding a horse when he first arrived at the station. He also suffered from asthma.

The drawings show that Oscar was aware of the work of those Aboriginal people who worked for the Native Police Corps, and he appears to have come into contact with Chinese miners attracted to the area during the 1870s gold rush.

We may never know what happened to Oscar after he finished his sketchbook. Did he remain on the property? Did he move to another station? Did he die young or live to old age?

Visit The National Museum of Australia and see Oscar's Sketches

copyright © - all rights reserved